Chapter 48:

Aerthus X

Mad God


The streets were decorated with flowers and colorful banners, and most people were in a jovial mood. It was early morning, yet many citizens were already gathering at the giant square before the royal palace, getting ready to witness as Aerthus IX took off his crown, placing it on his son's head, signaling a new chapter in the Empire's history.


"Up, up, sleepy head!" Anya laughed as she came into Ren's room, pulling away the curtains while her daughter only moaned, pulling the blanket over her head.


"Who wakes up this early… uggghhh…."


"You, Young Lady! Come on!" She pulled it off her. "You need to get ready; we need to be there in an hour; you will meet up with Leinor, then accompany Feynor as he is crowned!"


"Why me? Let the pervy one do it!" Ren moaned sulkily as she sat on her bed while her hair resembled a bird's nest.


"He will be there too! Only the Second Prince refused to come home for the event."


"Ugh, I got the creeps from the Third… But I'm curious about the Second. It's a pity he won't be coming back."


"Don't be too hard on Prince Reignar; he is still of royal blood and the brother of Leinor," Anya warned her.


"Huh? I thought you would be harsher on him." She said with genuine surprise in her voice.


"I would have been seeing his reaction when he regained consciousness…." Her mother held back a laugh.


When they brought back the fainted Reignar, and he finally woke up, he started to tell them what a bad dream he had… until he saw Ren walking in. When she smiled at him, releasing a fragment of her aura, the Prince screamed before almost fainting again. He quickly excused himself and escaped the mansion, having not been seen since then.


"Well, true… It was funny. I won't mess with him that much. Promise~" She giggled playfully. "At least he may act decently for a while."


"Go, wash up, then put on your dress! The ceremony will only take an hour or so, after that there will be a lot of fun activities around the city, you can have some leisure time with the others, and in the evening we will go to the banquet hosted by Aerthus X in the palace."


"Got it. What about Emi and Niji?"


"Xendar will take them to the ceremony in disguise so they can witness it. For the banquet, they are invited by Aerthus X, and they will be introduced by him to the participants as ambassadors. Only the leading figures of the Empire will be there; they ought to know what is going on."


"I bet they are more nervous than Feynor~" Ren smacked her lips.


"Emi masks it well. Niji… A little better, but he says he is used to it, as he was performing before humans when still young."


"Tsk… then they are no fun. Well, whatever! Oh, I'll wear the new dress I bought!"


"Don't you dare!"


"Why?" She puffed up her cheeks immediately.


"Don't you dare parade around in those indecent looking… things! You look like a dancer in one of those cheap brothels! What were you thinking?"


"Wha-?! Mom! That's a cute dress! Isha helped me pick it out! They fit me really well!" Ren protested, honestly disagreeing with her.


"That's the main point! You should have asked me, not her! It shows too much skin!"


"Come on… it covers my chest and privates." She crossed her arms before her chest.


"Yes, but only those parts! Everything else is completely visible! You lean a little, and the skirt part just flips up! What kind of dress is that?! Also, it is almost transparent!"


"Just almost!"


"Enough! Wear it for Leinor if you want, inside the bedroom, but forget that I will let you step out of the house wearing that… thing!"


“Tsk… you are no fun…” Ren sulked as she was looking forward to wearing it, surprising everyone, but it seemed like her mother shot down everything right from the start.


"I'll get your clothing ready. Go wash up!" Anya ended the discussion.


"Oookaaaayyyy... "She answered, giving up, while Anya just looked at her as she disappeared into the bathroom.


"Poor Leinor… you will have your hands full; she is just like her father…." She smiled, shaking her head while getting Ren's white-blue, one-piece dress ready for the ceremony.


….

…..


Saynur and Frenir were already at their posts long before anybody. While Saynur put up his easel and got ready the canvas, Frenrir was helping to prepare the paint.


"We are so early…." Frenrir yawned.


"You said there will be no complaining!" Saynur smiled, rubbing his head, giving him a hot chocolate that immediately drew a smile on his face. "We need to be early. I want to capture the feeling of anticipation of the people and also have the best place where I can paint the best possible picture."


"What if the Emperor notices the painting and he likes it? Wouldn't that be awesome?"


"Yes, but don't dream too much~" Saynur laughed, and he had no dreams about being noticed by the royal family. He was content that some minor nobles were already interested in the paintings and were curious about the end result. "Did you bring all the brushes?"


"Yes!" He said as he showed his bag.


"Mmm… then where are the thicker ones?"


"Um.. um… oh… ah… they may be on the… um… counter?"


"Silly!" He sighed but didn't look frustrated. "This is why we came early. Go back home and grab them!"


"Right away!" Frenir smiled as he rushed off.


He didn't get far away; after turning just around the first corner, he collided with something really soft, landing on his butt.


"Ouch… Sorry!" The little boy said, looking up and seeing a beautiful, red-haired woman standing before him.


"Ahaha, no problem, kiddo~" Isha laughed with a beautiful voice, helping him up. "What's the rush?"


"I need to go home for stuff for my brother! He will paint the coronation ceremony and also the wedding next week!"


"Oh? Will he? What is your brother's name?"


"Saynur! We have a shop not far from here!" he grinned happily, giving away the name and address of the shop before jogging away, looking back a few times as he never saw such a beautiful lady up close… at least not until an hour later, when his little mind put a face, only seen from afar together with Isha's features from up close. Realizing who he had met almost made him cry at that moment.


"What's up?" Zern arrived, fixing his formal attire, smiling at Isha, who was wearing a fine, silk, white dress with a slanted, short skirt.


"Nothing." She smiled while leaning in, kissing him on his face. "I just saw a cute little boy. Maybe I want one."


"Want… one?" He gulped loudly. "We just… started to…."


"Ahahaha, look at you! Usually, you are quiet and strong-willed, but it seems you show your real side before me, huh? I'm starting to like the flustered Zern more and more~" She laughed, grabbing onto his arms. "Relax, I'm just teasing you. I bumped into a boy; he said his brother would paint the two ceremonies. I'm thinking of getting one wedding picture and gifting it to Lady Anya, and maybe the others would get a copy too. If they behave~ What do you think?"


"That's a good idea! Well, if you say you see a new side of me now, I think I just saw a side of you they don't know~ I think they will be surprised, especially Leinor."


"Well… I may ask the painter to swap their clothes on the painting… that would be funny."


"Okay, that would be something you would do!" Zern sighed.


"Ahaha~ I think Ren would appreciate that!" She laughed a bit louder as she held Zern's hand between her bosom, making his face blush. "What~? Last night you weren't this shy~ My hip is still sore, and my breasts tingle as I feel your strong fingers gripping onto them~."


"Hmf. You deserved it!" He said while grabbing her waist, pulling in close for a kiss, "You easily get too cocky; you need some firm punishment!"


"Now you are speaking my language~" Isha whispered, leaning on him with a satisfied expression.


….

…..


When noon came, the square was packed. What Emi saw from her seat beside Xendar was only a sea of human heads.


"So many… our tribe would only take up a small square in this city… We can only match their numbers if we count the lesser tribes without proper intelligence…." Emi thought, "Individually, we are stronger, but… an all-out war… tsk. If those cats overpower the others, we will have bloody times ahead of us. I need to report this back to Lady Rumira."


While she was watching and thinking, Niji did the same, looking on as Feynor appeared beside Dermitos. While his father gave a speech about how proud he is for being able to be their Emperor for so long and how excited he is to pass it down to his son, whose ideas would lead them into a new, prosperous chapter of their history.


"The air around here is more prosperous and has more cohesion than in the Kingdom of Ten. The people look more unified. Interesting… so the human kingdoms do differ this much. I never believed it completely!" Niji sighed, softly murmuring to himself.


"I once toured around there. They are unified by interests only. If we were gone, their kingdom would collapse into internal bickering and scheming, fighting for control." Xendar said with apparent disdain in his voice, "The true, ruling family…." He said but stopped, while Anya just placed her hand on his.


"It's okay. You are right. I was cast out; I have no connection to them and no feelings for them." his wife whispered.


"Their ruling family maintains its power by constantly dividing the other families, playing chess, constantly keeping them at a certain level." Xendar continued in the end, "The others are always trying to strengthen their own powers, making alliances, waging secret wars behind the curtains, smiling at each other while holding a dagger behind their back, ready to strike. The only thing preventing them from going into complete anarchy is us. The fear of being swallowed up by us has been etched into them for 2000 years! Pathetic."


"I never thought of it this way. But we are the same, aren't we? Since we evolved, we waged war against the old kingdom of your kind, and later on, we saw every human the same way." Niji spoke his own honest thoughts.


"What we know, it was mostly the ents doing, destroying the Old Kingdom," Anya said, remembering her history lessons from her childhood.


"Still… It wasn't only them." Niji shook his head. "They evolved the fastest; most of the ents leading their tribe now are still the same ones who gained intelligence back then. The first demon folk followed them. Back then, we had just awakened; the centuries we spent realizing our place in the world and how we are hunted and cut down for resources resulted in the rage of the ents. The rest is history, as you humans say."


"I can understand; I would be furious if I realized I am no more than a raw resource." Xendar nodded.


"The ents still carry deep hatred. They do not even trust other demons, just another ent." Emi added, breaking her silence.


"Are you in danger?" Anya raised her eyebrows.


"Not really. They don't venture out of their territory." She nodded in response. "But the other big tribes may eye them as enemies, standing against their unification efforts."


"Maybe they will watch us the same now," Niji added. "But don't we have an ally who is now crowned Emperor?" He smiled after it, asking nobody in particular.


"My daughter is yet to be crowned." Xendar grinned, knowing the primary motivator in this alliance was not Feynor but Ren.


Emi silently listened to them, mulling over their conversation, trying to sort her thoughts. When she listened to Feynor, now Aerthus X's speech about his plans to negotiate peace and cooperation with the demons, telling about his dream of peace, no more hordes from the north, straight to the people, she was unsure what to think. Still, her eyes unconsciously wandered to Poli before turning away.


….

…..


"There…" Saynur let out a big sigh, watching the completed, colorful, lifelike painting when Dermitos placed his crown on Feynor's head. The ink was yet to dry on the canvas, giving a mirage-like feeling to it if someone looked at it. The ceremony ended about an hour ago, yet the square was still packed as people celebrated and had fun. There were music, plays, and many stands, selling food and drinks.


"You're so great, big brother! I have never seen you paint so fast!" Frenir giggled, holding up a water bottle to his brother, who was sweating hard and looked exhausted.


"At least I am good at something, aren't I?" He laughed, taking it and gulping its content down.


"I hope the beautiful lady will come back to buy this!"


"You said that a million times already. Are you sure you described her to me correctly?"


"Yes! I wouldn't forget her!" Frenir replied proudly.


"You should, if you are correct, she was Lady Isha. My memory is great at remembering faces."


"Ah!" Frenir froze up hearing him.


"If you didn't just daydream the whole thing."


"Well, he was clearly dreaming when he bumped into me." came a soft laugh as Isha and Zern came closer.


"Woah! I told you, big bro!" He said, almost screaming, with stars in his eyes, softening Isha's heart immediately.


"My Lady, Lord!" Saynur bowed, greeting both of them.


"What, Lady or Lord? Easy! I'm no nobility, and neither is he. Don't act like this! We came to check out the painting, and your little brother did not lie; it really is something."


"T-thank you!" Saynur trembled.


"We are here to order a few copies." Zern smiled. "Also, we want to hire you officially to paint my Master's wedding. If it's not late, the General's residence will pay any expenses, so please order the best quality canvas, paint, and tools."


"R-really?"


"Yes." Isha laughed. "Lady Anya really liked the idea; she wants the original painting for herself, so she is willing to pay you handsomely for it. Also, we will need copies, too; every expense is ours to pay!"


Saynur did not believe his ears at first. He didn't anticipate anything like this, his plan was only to earn a good amount of money that he could invest in the expansion of his shop, but when Zern passed on the coin purse, containing an amount that equals half a year of his earnings, he almost fainted.


"This is for the expenses; Lady Anya will pay triple this for the first painting. Any consecutive copies will be paid double their original selling price, that you wanted to put them on sale."


"T-this is too much…."


"Not in her eyes." She shook her head with a warm smile.


"Please… thank Lady Anya in my name!" Saynur bowed while Frenir also followed his example.


"Ahaha, no problem. When your little brother is coming of age, send him to us! We may be able to help a little!" Zern patted his shoulder before leaving.


"You little rascal…." Saynur grinned, looking at his brother, who was still mesmerized by what was happening. "You may just have bumped into our family's biggest fortune!" he patted his tiny head with excitement.